Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Great Gatsby Movie: Outrageous, Stunning, Entertaining -- and Long

Ever since I saw the movie trailer for “The Great Gatsby” a few months ago, I’ve been looking forward to the movie’s release. Fitzgerald's book is an American classic, still taught in schools. In fact, last year my granddaughter read it as part of a English Literature class, and I re-read it too.

I vaguely remember watching the 1970s movie version with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow, so I wasn’t sure what to expect with this latest remake.

My three words to describe the 2013 version of "The Great Gatsby" are: outrageous, stunning and entertaining.
If I had to add three more, they would be: a bit long.

The music is an odd mix of Jazz and hip-hop, which surprisingly fits with the grab-on-to-the-latest-fad mood of the era. The over-the-top party scenes convey the manic nature of Gatsby and the outrageous time in America’s history.

The stunning visual effects recapture the era of the 1920s. The architecture and set decorations of the Buchanan and Gatsby mansions are vivid and lovely; a stark contrast to the poor working-class New York neighborhoods. The car scenes and dance scenes are dizzying. But I love the Flapper and Jazz-Age costumes and suspect there might be a revival of the 1920s style of dress in fashion circles.

Leonardo DiCaprio is dashing and quite convincing as Jay Gatsby, mixing an aura of mystery with a need for acceptance and love. At times, however, his attire brought to mind commercials for Ralph Lauren and Channel No. 5. Maybe that was the intent.
While I wondered why an American actor couldn’t be cast for the role of Daisy Buchanan, Carey Mulligan did not disappoint. Her combination of doe-eyed admiration and wild-eyed mania brings her character to life. Toby Maguire, playing the role of Daisy's cousin, the alcoholic and impressionable Nick Carraway, has outgrown his Spiderman persona.

While “The Great Gatsby” is entertaining, at almost two and one-half hours long, I found myself wondering when it would end—although that could’ve been because I drank a large beverage during the movie and the water scene at the end made me want to rush out and use the restroom.  
I was glad that I stayed to watch the final scene and hear the memorable last line of Fitzgerald’s acclaimed novel, "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
One measure of a movie’s entertainment value is if I would pay to see it again.
The answer is: Yes, I would.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Week of Contrasts: Out in the Country and a Trip Downtown

This week there's been a lot of activity going on in my little world, with my grandson's eighth-grade graduation on Tuesday and my granddaughter's scheduled for Saturday.

My busy schedule hasn't stopped me from taking time to enjoy the moment. In fact, the last few days have been filled with sources of happiness and inspiration. You could say this has been a week of contrasts.

Monday's trip to our country place was both relaxing and invigorating. I always bring my camera to capture some of the natural beauty of the place.

Turkey vultures circled overhead to make sure Harley, our black Lab, didn't venture too near the barn where the vultures have taken up residence and made a home for their young ones.

Not too far away, Harley visited the mangled model T (or Model A, I can't tell which) that sits in the woods, entangled in some trees.

The rusty relic has been parked there for more than 20 years, when we bought the property.  The drawback of being out in the woods are the ticks; I removed three before I left and found two more when I got home.

Wednesday brought about a contrast and a change of scene with a pilgrimage trip to downtown St. Louis sponsored by my parish.

The original date for the pilgrimage earlier this month was cancelled due to high water, so I'm glad I was still able to make the trip.

Although the Mississippi River was still high and running fast, it wasn't as wild as earlier in the month.

Our first stop was the St. Louis Basilica, one of the oldest churches west of the Mississippi. The basilica, located at the foot of the Gateway Arch, is what we locals call the "Old Cathedral."

The exterior of the Old Cathedral is undergoing renovation, but the simple beauty of the historical church still shines through.

Our next stop was the Shrine of St. Joseph, site of a Vatican authenticated miracle.

St. Joseph's is a welcoming church and once the home parish for thousands of German families in St. Louis.

The church was slated for demolition in the 1970s, but it was saved from the wrecking ball and restored to its natural beauty.

Howard, our docent at the church, provided fascinating details about the church's history and special features.

The Shrine of St. Joseph is such a lovely church, my photos don't do it justice.

The main altar is especially colorful and breathtaking.

After leaving the church we headed for the Old Spaghetti Factory on Laclede's Landing.

After a delicious buffet lunch, we headed back to the riverfront for a Mississippi River tour on the Tom Sawyer.

The riverboat tour was exciting.  My sister and I climbed the steps of the boat to the top deck, which offered a spectacular view of the river and the City of St. Louis.

We sat next to a couple of college students from Saudi Arabia, who were impressed with their first visit to St. Louis.

On the Tom Sawyer Riverboat, as the captain steered the boat up and down river, he pointed out landmarks and sites of significance.

We rode under the Eads Bridge and were able to see the Old Courthouse, location of the Dred-Scott decision.

While I was tired by the time our bus made its way through rush hour traffic and returned to St. Peters, it was a happy weariness as a feeling of peace settled over me.

My trips this week to the country and to the city have reinforced my knowledge of how fortunate I am to live in the "Show Me" State of Missouri, a land of natural and man-made beauty and lots of contrasts. 

What a wonderful week for memories and inspiration.

Friday, May 17, 2013

From Anthologies to Interviews, There's Lots Brewing at Coffee and Critique:

Coffee and Critique, the critique group Lou Turner and I co-founded in 2007, has some exciting projects brewing.

Lou came up with the brilliant idea for our group to put together an anthology. Lou and I are serving as co-editors of this members-only anthology. We are looking for well crafted, critiqued, polished, and elegant unpublished short stories and essays of up to 2,500 words.  The C&C members' anthology will be published by High Hill Press, with a release date and book launch scheduled for late fall. Stay tuned for details.

My idea isn't quite as glamorous, but it's entertaining, informative, and a lot of fun. Beginning this month I will post my interviews with members of Coffee and Critique on the Coffee and Critique blog. The feature is called "Take Ten with Coffee and Critique."

Using a Q&A format, a selected member will respond to ten writing-related questions, plus one bonus question. It's a great way to get to know the remarkable members of C&C, as well as gain insight into their writing processes. The Take Ten feature will include member bios and links to their websites or blogs.

Earlier today I published my first Take Ten interview with Doyle Suit. If you get a chance, check out Doyle's interview.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend.

Look for my review of "The Great Gatsby" movie next week.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Spring: A Time for Beginnings and Endings -- and Change

Spring; in nature it is a time for beginnings.

Weeks ago Momma Robin built a nest on our back porch.

The other day her eggs hatched.

Now, her hatchlings start their new lives and are eager to be fed.

Out front, our lilac bush has bloomed and shares its lovely fragrance every time we pass the front porch.

On the sides of the house, irises and roses are in bloom, adding color to our yard.

In our little family, spring is also a time for endings.

Today is my granddaughter's last day of high school. As she headed out the door this morning, I snapped photos to capture the moment.

After final exams this morning, her class will hold Senior Day, where they will have fun and games on the school's athletic field.

Today she will also turn in her soccer uniform and say goodbye to her team mates. I'm sure many tears will be shed.

It is a bittersweet time for her--and for us to see her grown up and prepare to leave our "nest" and head off for college at the end of the summer.

Her official graduation ceremony is a week from Saturday, and her graduation party is next month. Time to celebrate!

This is also my grandson's last week of elementary school. He graduates from eighth grade on Friday.

He is off school today and has an all-day field trip to Hannibal tomorrow, where I'm sure he will learn more about Mark Twain and Twain's famous fictional characters: Tom Sawyer, Becky Thatcher, and Huck Finn, to name a few.

On Friday my grandson has his class's Farewell Assembly. At the assembly, his class performs a dance number. That should be fun! 

While he's off of school today, I'm taking him and a couple friends to the movies to see "Iron Man 3."

While he and his friends are watching "Iron Man 3" in one room of the theater, my sister and I will be in another room watching "The Great Gatsby." I'm excited to see this latest version of the movie.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's book "The Great Gatsby" is considered by many to be "the great American novel."

The setting and characters are memorable, but the novel's last line, which is etched on the tombstone Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda share, is recognized as one of American literature's best: "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

So, while spring is a time for beginnings, it's also a time for endings; it's a time to remember and celebrate the past and prepare for the future and the changes that lie ahead.

Happy Spring!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Can You Keep A Secret?

Last night I attended Senior Awards Night at my granddaughter's high school. Watching the seniors parade across the stage and be recognized for their awards was a long and happy occasion; a prelude to their graduation ceremony at the end of the month.

I was especially pleased when my granddaughter's name was announced, followed by the awards she has received, the biggest being the very generous Robert J. Trulaske Sr. Scholarship from the Trulaske School of Business at the University of Missouri.

The list of schools where graduates will attend was impressive. Most will go to colleges in Missouri. Others will be heading off to: Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Colorado, Texas, and California. Two will be studying in other countries. One will go to college in Canada; another in China.

What also was also impressive was the secret revealed by the school principal at the end of the ceremony.

When he asked, "Can you keep a secret?"

Students shouted, "No!"

He responded, "Well, I'm going to tell you anyway."

He continued, "The senior class of 2013 received offers totaling $4.6 million in scholarships."

The secret is: That amount is over $1 million more than the previous year's class.

But don't tell anyone, especially last year's graduates. It's a secret.

Monday, May 6, 2013

NPR's Three-Minute Fiction Contest Now Open - Finders Keepers

Finders Keepers: Round eleven of NPR's Three-Minute Fiction Contest is now open.

Guest judge is Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!, Vampires in the Lemon Grove, and St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves.

Submissions for this edition of NPR's contest should be:

* An original short story

* No more than 600 words

* Can be read in about three minutes

* About a character who finds an object

* And has no intention of returning it

* Deadline is 11:59 p.m. EDT on Sunday, May 12

* One entry per person

Winner will receive signed copies of Russell's novels and have his or story published in The Paris Review.

Click here for more details.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Missouri Writers' Guild Winners Announced

Last Saturday at the MWG conference awards banquet, the names of the winners of the MWG annual contests were announced.

I wasn't able to attend the conference, but several thoughtful and kind-hearted writing friends notified me via social media that my name had been called Saturday night.

Now that the official results have been posted on the MWG website I can announce my winnings:

1st Place "The Magic of Writing" - Blog Post, sponsored by Whispering Prairie Press 

2nd Place "Wisdom in Ruby Red" - Second Chance Essay, sponsored by the Writer's Society of Jefferson County

3rd Place "Sweet Memories" - Inspirational Essay, sponsored by Saturday Writers
I'm always pleased and excited to have my work recognized, and I'm thrilled that so many of my writing friends were among the winners whose works were also given awards.
Here's a partial list of the winners:
Coffee and Critique group members and blogger buddies who took home prizes are: Janet Bettag, Margo Dill, Sylvia Forbes, Marcia Gaye, Jennifer Hashieder, Claudia Mundell, Alice Muschany, Sheree Nielsen, Linda O'Connell, Sarah Patsaros, Doyle Suit, and Jack Zerr.
Also winning first place was the Saturday Writers Cuivre River Anthology, which took home the top prize in the Best Anthology category, sponsored by Blank Slate Press.
To view the complete list of winners and to see a photo of MWG President Steve Wiegenstein with the winners who were on hand to accept their awards, click on the links above.

Congratulations to all the winners, and a special thanks to the chapters and groups who sponsored contests.


Mysteries of the Ozarks, Volume V - Interviews with Lonnie Whitaker and Dr. Barri Bumgarner

Here is the second installment of interviews with contributors who have stories in Mysteries of the Ozarks, Volume V , from Ozark Writers, I...